The city of Crossville’s purchase of the Village Inn is moving forward. The council could vote on the third and final reading this week of the budget amendment necessary to fund the purchase — just 15 days after its first vote on the matter in a special-called meeting held Dec. 13 at 5 p.m., prior to the council’s regular monthly meeting.
Last week, Crossville Mayor R.J. Crawford offered his assurance that the city was not acting “off the cuff.”
He offered new insight into efforts being made to ensure the people living at the Village Inn are able to secure new housing following the sale.
We are happy to hear the city will be working with the residents of the complex. The Village Inn is home to many people, and as today’s report on housing shows, affordable places to live can be hard to find in this community — especially for people with limited means.
However, there has been little public discussion about why the city is buying the property at a cost of $450,000, or what it hopes to use the property for moving forward.
While Mayor Crawford says the city is not acting “off the cuff,” we can’t know that because so little information has been shared with the public. That’s why the Chronicle is currently waiting to inspect public documents related to this proposed purchase.
It’s not the council’s $450,000 that will be spent to purchase this property. It’s the taxpayers’ money.
This property was the site of a city action earlier in the year that displaced 130 residents after a search warrant service expanded to find numerous safety concerns throughout the complex.
The property was reopened the next day, with a note that the city’s then-attorney hadn’t been contacted prior to the closure and that the city’s action lacked due process for the property owner — and by extension the people living there.
That set off a series of events still somewhat shroud- ed in mystery. The city manager was suspended, then he resigned, then the resignation was rescinded and, finally, the city manager was reinstated.
The city council hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation, at a cost of $10,000. That report was cited numerous times in meetings by the council — apparently finding numerous “procedural errors” by various city departments.
The Chronicle’s initial public records request for a copy of that report was denied, though we continue to seek access to what we believe is public information.
Public documents can often reveal information some might prefer to keep confidential, but the public’s business isn’t the same as a private business, and secrecy doesn’t serve the public. Transparency does.
That’s why Tennessee’s public records and meetings laws require the public’s business to be conducted in the open and for documents related to public business to be available to the public.
The Crossville City Council takes great care to explain that it has discussed the matters on the consent agenda each month — typically routine matters or purchases — during its monthly work session. And they do.
But there has been surprisingly little discussion in the public’s view of the city’s purchase of the Village Inn or the city’s intentions for that property after the residents are — we hope — relocated to safe, affordable housing that helps them thrive.
While Mayor Crawford may believe the council is not acting “off the cuff,” the public needs more transparency to reach the same conclusion.
— Crossville Chronicle
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